The Monday Poem: Two poems by Ted Kooser

The Monday Poem is brought to you by Professor Jim Gormley of the English Department. Enjoy!

A Happy Birthday

This evening I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.

I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

An Old Sidewalk

THE PASSING YEARS have broken it

over the knees of tree roots,
those of great maples raining shade,
and of crippled elms whose leaves
in August turn to a lace that sifts
the heat. And the breaks have filled
with mold from which frail seedlings,
already with bark like their parents,
hold up green banners of hope.
For sixty or maybe seventy years
this sidewalk has been lying here,
literally under foot, and suddenly,
one morning when I look,
it’s there, supporting me,
its every pebble like a jewel—
yellow or brown or red or black—
set in the sandy concrete, ants
patching their old gray tent.

Such happiness there is in being
a part of all this, of dismissing
the woman watching from her window
while I bend to one knee to press
my hand against a broken sidewalk,
feeling the heat of that same light
that the sparrow hops over,
and that warms the cricket as it carries
its song across town in its purse.

Ted Kooser is a two-time US Poet Laureate and the author of numerous poetry collections, including Delights & Shadows, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Splitting an Order (Copper Canyon Press, 2014). As Poet Laureate he created “American Life in Poetry,” a free weekly column for newspapers, featuring a poem by a contemporary American writer. Born in Ames, Iowa, Kooser is a former vice president of Lincoln Benefit Life, where he worked as an insurance representative for many years. He teaches at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.